The Jerusalem Post
Second Lady Pence’s artistic perspective on terrorism, trauma and Trump
APalestinian pulls a knife on a security guard at the central bus station in Jerusalem, stabbing him in the chest. Terrorists lob rocks more than two dozen times per day at Israeli vehicles driving on Highway 60, the main northsouth highway that runs through the hills of Samaria.
Arab leaders, from Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah to the heads of Islamic State and al-Qaida, are calling on their constituents to murder innocent Americans and Israelis over US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will be in Israel this week, stepping into this environment riddled with threats of terrorism and violence. And just like Trump who knows that Jerusalem is not the obstacle to peace but the city of peace, Pence and his wife are Bible-believing Christians who support the people of Israel and have taken a stance against funding and supporting acts of terrorism.
The second lady has taken this a step further. Like her predecessors, she identified an official platform on which to focus her efforts as second lady. For Karen Pence this is “Art Therapy: Healing with the Heart.”
Mrs. Pence chose art therapy after learning about the technique for treating children suffering from trauma in 2006. She said, “It is evident when I visit art therapy programs across the United States and the world, that art therapy is making a positive difference. From children with cancer, to struggling teens, to grieving families, to people with autism, to military service members experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, to those with eating disorders, art therapy is changing lives.”
Art therapy has proven essential in the biblical heartland of Israel, where nearly all residents have had their lives disrupted by terrorism. There is a street in my neighborhood which I call “Terror Victims Row.” Let’s take an imaginary walk through this very real street:
The first house is that of the Eldar family, whose 16-year-old son Yonatan, my daughter’s teacher’s son, was murdered by terrorists. In the second house is the Yerushalmi family. Their son Shmuel, 17, was killed by a terrorist while standing at a bus stop. In the very next house lives the Kessler family, whose 19-year-old granddaughter, Gila, was also murdered while standing at a bus stop. Three houses further down lives the Setone family, whose 17-year-old son Avi was killed in a terrorist massacre at his high school. You go around the corner, and you come to the Shoham family, whose five-monthold baby was killed when terrorists on the side of the highway hit him in the head with a massive rock. His family was traveling home from a visit to the grandparents.
What happens to those who experience the trauma of terrorist attacks?
Many adults develop post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, which can manifest in fear, depression, anxiety or even physical symptoms. PTSD can be treated with mainstream therapy. But children, unlike adults, cannot usually sit down with a therapist and talk about the trauma. Despite their seeming openness, when confronted with trauma, children often bury it inside. If not treated, it comes out in all the wrong ways: sleepless nights, sudden bursts of anger and panic attacks. They fear death. They fear, in general.
I have been in touch with Pence’s policy director about the extensive therapy programs run by Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund (SICF) for youth whose lives have been forever changed by terrorism. SICF has a therapeutic-educational campus with a formal therapy center using art, music, movement and bibliotherapy, a separate horse farm for therapeutic horseback riding, two regional schools, kindergartens, informal therapy stations, such as a music playground and studio, and a petting zoo for animal-assisted therapy. More than 2,000 children are served on that one campus, with many others served in surrounding communities and in other parts of Samaria. SICF is also building playgrounds within communities and supports youth programs and summer camps.
I hope Mrs. Pence will visit the biblical heartland and see the work we are doing while she is here in the holy land.
There is no question that this latest wave of terrorism will lead to people being killed and wounded. Miraculously, there will also be terrorist attacks with no physical casualties, but these attacks should not receive less attention.
It’s true that blood and politics attract the media, but psychological trauma can destroy children’s lives.
My plea to Mrs. Pence and her husband while they are here in Israel: don’t neglect the human side. Just as Mrs. Pence has affirmed her support for the treatment of trauma through art therapy in the United States, here in Israel, the lives of terrorism victims must matter too.
The author is the founder and CEO of the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund (www.shilohisraelchildren.org) and a former mayor of Shiloh.